Tuesday, April 17, 2007

God rid me of God

Chapter One of Rollins' work How (Not) to Speak of God is titled "God rid me of God" and is a rumination and exploration of idolatry. What is idolatry in light of postmodernism? How can our concepts of God become idolatrous?

As I start to write, I'm listening to The Arcade Fire's newest album Neon Bible, specifically the song "Intervention." If churches had organists who could blow up the organ like this in church, then by all means, bring back traditional instruments into the service as fast as possible! Sorry for the aside, but this album is awesome.

Back to Rollins. There is a lot to think about in this chapter, with a lot of the content dealing with epistemology (the study of how we know things). What do we mean when we say we know God? Do we believe that we know God as God really is? Is that even possible? One of the great insights that postmodernism has helped to develop, and Rollins clearly calls for this, is a high level of epistemological humility. What we know about God must be girded by a deep-rooted humility that acknowledges our limits in understanding God as God really is. This does not mean that we don't need to try to know God, but rather come to the place where we can realize that our understanding and knowledge of God is good, but always limited and wrapped in mystery. Rollins writes at the end of the chapter:

"In short, the emerging conversation is in a unique place to acknowledge the long-forgotten insight that God hides in God's visibility, realizing that revelation embraces concealment at one and the same time as it embraces manifestation and that our various interpretations of revelation will always be provisional, fragile, and fragmentary. While all of the Church has maintained that there is a revealed and hidden side of God, the difference here is that we are rediscovering the Barthian insight that even the revealed side of God is mysterious (pg. 18)."

Rollins points out that it is necessary for us as Christians to realize that "God hides in God's visibility," that is, that even the parts of God God shows us, we see in part, never in full. This should raise some questions about whether God is far away, or able to be known at all, and this will be discussed in further chapters, but I'll end with an illuminating comment by Rollins:

"Hence revelation ought not to be thought of either as that which makes God known or as that which leaves God unknown, but rather as the overpowering light that renders God known as unknown (pg. 17)."


Tom said...

Thanks for the commentary. Can't wait to read more. BTW, I wasn't feeling Arcade Fire. Heard them yesterday. What is it you like about them?

Josh said...

didn't like Arcade Fire eh?

i love the big sound, the hymn-like quality of the music with the powerful lyrics and sort of transcendence that comes in their combination of big music and deep lyrics.

the organ on intervention is freaking amazing, and the lyrics in that song are profound. i also like "my body is a cage" and "windowsill" a lot right now (though i love the whole album).

i like the experimental sound too.

Stephen said...

Deep lyrics and experimental sound.

I like the organ on Intervention also. Keep the Car Running, Ocean of Noise, and The Well and the Lighthouse are also some of my favorites right now.